Tibet, unidentified arhats

17th-18th century, Tibet, arhat, gilt copper alloy, at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (USA).

17th-18th century, Tibet, arhat, gilt copper alloy, at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (USA).

17th-18th century, Tibet, arhat, copper alloy with traces of gilding, private collection.

17th-18th century, Tibet, arhat, copper alloy with traces of gilding, private collection.

These two sculptures apparently depict the same arhat, who may be Shribhadra. This arhat normally has a moustache and a goatee, visible on the second sculpture, his left hand in the meditation gesture and his right hand in the dharma mudra – but, in both cases above, the right hand does the (very similar) vitarka mudra, with the index and the thumb touching. Of course, it is not uncommon for late sculptures to vary from the traditional iconography. We will note the tiger skin and the throne supported by two lions with a vajra at the centre.

18th century, Tibet, arhat, gilt copper repoussé, photo by Bohnams.

18th century, Tibet, arhat, gilt copper repoussé, photo by Bohnams.

Here the hand gestures correspond to Shribhadra’s.

Labelled ast 14th century, Tibet, arhat, at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (USA).

Labelled ast 14th century, Tibet, arhat, at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (USA).

The only arhat who traditionally has his head covered, and both hands in the dhyana mudra, is Ajita, but this arhat holds something in his hands (an open scroll perhaps?), a gesture which would corresponds to Gopaka, who normally holds a manuscript with both hands.

15th century, Tibet, arhat, wood with gold paint, at The Walters Art Museum (USA).

15th century, Tibet, arhat, wood with gold paint, at The Walters Art Museum (USA).

This beautiful wooden sculpture shows an arhat with the left hand cupped to hold an object such as a bowl,  and the right hand extended and perhaps holding a (now missing) object. The character could be Angaja, who holds a fly whisk and an incense bowl, or Nagasena, who holds a vase and a staff with rings

The mystery remains …

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